If you thought that Christmas celebrations were long finished, think again. The final Navidad festivity occurs February 2 when the image of the Baby Jesus from the nativity scene is taken for a blessing at a special mass.
This custom comes from the bible events recorded in Luke 2:22–40 where Mary presented herself to the temple to make purification sacrifices after 40 days of uncleanness after giving birth. If calculations are based on the belief that Jesus was born on Christmas Eve, even though there is no biblical proof of such, February 2 is the day on the modern Roman calendar that these purification sacrifices would take place.
In our area, Mexican mothers are still held as unclean and not to leave the house for 40 days, known as cuarentena, after giving birth. If the child is male, the mother “merece el chocolate” (deserves the chocolate) and is served hot chocolate every morning of the 40 days, supposedly to build up strength after the astonishing feat of giving birth to a male. If the child is female, the mother isn’t as deserving and is not only not served chocolate, but is often expect to be up and about long before the 40 days have passed. Apparently, it isn’t as exhausting giving birth to females.
In addition to Mary’s purification sacrifices, there were additional sacrifices to be made under the Mosaic law recorded in Exodus 13:12-15 since her child was a firstborn male child, and Jesus was presented to the temple at that time as well.
Therefore, the image of the baby Jesus is taken from the Nacimiento (Nativity Scene), dressed and taken to mass.
The same group that cut the Rosca de Reyes on January 6 comes together again, with those that received the plastic baby in their cake piece acting as the padrinos (godparents) of the celebration by providing tamales and atole.
Last year, since I was the lucky recipient of the plastic representation of el niño díos, I was responsible for bringing tamales to share at the school I work at. I had never made tamales in my life, but we had corn aplenty, and I had a cookbook or two, and my sister-in-law and husband agreed to help me. It was quite an undertaking, but the tamales de dulce (sweet) and the tamales de chile (sauce) turned out much better than I expected.
Are you curious about other Mexican traditions?
Check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico.